Lion's 1973 State Championship Team Helped Blur The Color Lines - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Lion's 1973 State Championship Team Helped Blur The Color Lines

In it's early days, as segregation divided the city, Emmett Scott High became as much a part of the North Tyler as the folks that lived there. Generations of black families were taught there.

But in 1970, the doors of Emmett Scott closed for good.

"They felt like losing the school was losing the community really," said former Emmett Scott principal Alvin Anderson.

Integration would send students and educators across town to John Tyler. The Bulldogs were now Lions.

"When they came to John Tyler they were really disappointed that they had to go there and they felt really unwanted," Anderson said.

Alvin Anderson was sent from Scott to became assistant principal at John Tyler.

"It was sort of chaos but not with race riots with blacks and whites and fights."

But it would be football that eased the tension. As students dealt with racial problems, a winning team seemed to be the cure.

Current Lions Assistant Coach Mike Johnson joined the lions football team in 1971. He said the team became an example, as black and white players spent time together on and off the field.

"Coach Nelson was our head coach and right before the season started he had all his position coaches go to his kids home and eat dinner with them. So my receivers coach, came home with me and sat around the family and this guy was white. To me that brought us closer together."

"You don't hardly look at it black and white," Johnson said. "Football players we spent more time together than we did with our families, so it was more like those are my brothers"

At the start of the 1973 season, the Lions were picked to finish last in the district. But, they were armed with a young running back, named Earl Campbell.

"(We thought) we're not giving up. This is ours. We've got to have it," Johnson said.

On December 22, 1973, the Lions became state champs.

"When they went to the state, and came back as a state champion, then we were all sisters and brothers there really," Anderson said.

"It happened for us at a time that brought us closer together as a community," Coach Johnson said.,

"Going around the city, seeing the signs, with John Tyler and things like that, it showed us the entire city just came right in there," Anderson said.

More than 30 years later, Johnson thinks football is still uniting Tyler.

"It brought the people in Tyler together," he said. "I really believe that. "

Maya Golden reporting,
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